Applying the Midas touch

Ben Godar

If it seems like Burbank fire engines have an old-fashioned shine to

them, they do -- and two fire engineers are working to make sure it

stays that way.


Fire engineers Steve Sheehey and Terry Mencuri are in the process

of touching up the gold leafing on each of the department’s engines

and ladder trucks. The two men studied the involved process with Bob

Bond, a former Burbank resident who does the striping and gold


leafing on the department’s vehicles.

While many vehicles feature stickers that mimic the look of gold

leafing, Mencuri and Sheehey said it just doesn’t look as good as the

real thing.

“It’s more traditional,” Sheehey said. “That’s the way they did

the old rigs and it’s just beautiful.”

The thin sheets of gold were originally applied to emergency

vehicles because they were reflective, making the trucks more



After Sheehey and Mencuri studied with Bond and practiced the

leafing technique on their own vehicles, they began working on the

department’s engines. So far, they have restored the gold on three


It takes about eight hours for the men to complete one vehicle.

First, they apply a special glue to the areas where the gold will be

used. They then press a thin layer of gold along that glue, but


before it has completely dried, they work small turns into the glue

to give the strips texture. After the gold has been texturized and

the glue has dried, they seal it with a layer of clear coat.

Mencuri and Sheehey work on the rigs during their days off using

material the department buys for them. While doing the work

themselves saves the department a few thousand dollars per truck,

Mencuri said they were drawn to it because of the craftsmanship


“For me, it’s about being able to stand back and look at the work

and know you were a part of it,” he said.

Mencuri also hopes the finished products are something citizens

will take pride in.

“Whenever you see a fire engine, they’re shiny and have that nice

appearance,” he said. “We try to keep it that way.”